Sunday, October 12, 2014
Double-Ugly Strikes Again, A Baby Picture, They Also Served, An Important Airacobra, and a Goose
Somebody Has to Do It, I Guess
So here's The Deal: I've been a modeler for most of my life, beginning at age 5 and lasting until right now this minute. Mostly I've built for myself (one of many reasons I'm not nearly as good at it as I should be), but there was a time back in the late 1960s and early 1970s when I also built for local competition. Sometimes I would get lucky and actually win something, but more often I didn't and it didn't really matter very much to me; I was doing it for fun, mostly, because I thought (and still think) that the hobby was fun. In other words, the means were actually the end, if that makes any sense.
My competition career didn't last very long, just a few brief years. I got out of it not so much because I did or didn't win the contests I entered but because I saw how twisted the whole competition thing was making some of the other folks, otherwise normal people who actually became a tiny bit manic and quite a bit bloodthirsty when it got to be contest time. They had to win. They couldn't lose. They had to win.
Fast-forward to any contest I've attended over the past ten years or so. The quality of the models entered has improved vastly, almost beyond measure, in fact, and the quantity is still there as well. Some of the models are good and some aren't, but every one of them is better than the best we were doing Way Back When. It's a new, highly improved version of the scale modeler's world, but that same old win-at-any-cost competitor is still out there, taking something that should be a lot of fun for everyone involved and turning it into yet another twisted parody of our hobby.
You can always spot him or her at a contest; they don't smile much, and often have the sort of look on their face that you find on the guy who holds the fate of nations in his hands. They look at other people's work and either smirk or look worried, depending on how they view said other people's work. They aren't particularly charitable or kind when they're at a contest, because they have to win. They can't stand losing, and they don't deal with it particularly well when losing ends up being the final result of their endeavor. "You Are My Sunshine" is not a song that features in their own particular hit parade.
What does any of that matter, you might ask? Well, on so many levels it matters not at all. Every one of us enjoys (or should enjoy, anyway) this really neat hobby of ours, because it's FUN! Think about it: Our hobby teaches motor skills and coordination, and it causes us to think. It educates us as we research our projects, and it teaches us self-discipline. It leads us to other people with like interests and it builds friendships that can easily last a lifetime, and at the end of the day we get to proudly display something that we built with our own hands. That's the Up Side.
The Down Side takes us right back to that guy or gal who has to win the contest each time/every time. How can you truly enjoy a hobby, or anything else for that matter, when your sole reason for doing it is to show someone else that you're better at it than they are? It's true enough that everybody has it in them to lose, and it's equally true that not everyone can win. That's the way Life is, when you sit down and think about it, but it doesn't mean you can't enjoy what you're doing and, in a thought that's entirely foreign to that guy who has to win, equally enjoy the work of the one who beat you in the contest. Yes, it's important to us, but it's also a hobby, something we do for personal enjoyment, and the hobby isn't very enjoyable when we turn things into a Gotta Win It kind of a deal. The fun goes right out of it when we do that.
To look at things another way, I've seen people leave the hobby, or at least leave the club they belonged to, because things didn't go the way they wanted at a contest. I've seen people snub others whom they deemed unworthy, and I've seen friendships of many years destroyed, all over who took first place in a model contest. There's something wrong there.
I raced motorcycles a very long time ago, back when I was quite a bit younger than I am at present. I wanted to win, which was why I started racing, but that didn't happen very often until I stopped trying to beat the other guy and started to try to do better on a personal level. In my world that fact that I'd just taken a corner a little faster than I had done it before became more important to me than the fact that I'd also passed another rider in the process. The fun, which was increasingly becoming a rare thing to me, came back, and I started performing better on the track in consequence. What the other guy did no longer mattered; what did matter was that I enjoyed what I was doing again.
It's my perspective that my experience in motorsports can apply to almost anything, and that perspective most assuredly tempers my approach to plastic modeling. I enjoy going to contests every once in a while, mostly to marvel at the really neat work that's out there, but I haven't personally entered one in over 40 years and honestly doubt I ever will again. As for you: If you do it, that's fine, and I hope you achieve the success you're seeking from it. Just don't go gettin' all pissy and hateful if you don't win. This is a hobby, remember? It's not supposed to be a matter of life or death. It's supposed to be fun. It's a HOBBY!
I rest my case.
Just Some Old Bugsuckers
Just like those of most of our readership, our files are full to the brim with slides of military aircraft, in our case dating from the late 70s, when we began to do aviation photography in earnest, up until the early 1990s when such things became increasingly difficult to fit into an ever-expanding personal schedule and we stopped doing it. The following images date from those "glory" days of the late 1970s and very early 80s. We hope you enjoy them.
The boys at the McDonnell Aircraft Company most assuredly had no idea of the legendary aircraft they were creating when they laid out the first few lines of the design drawings that ultimately led to the F4H-1 Phantom, but that creation, originally intended to be an all-weather fleet defense interceptor and little else, was destined to become one of the world's iconic jet fighters, used for just about every role a military aircraft could have any sort of relevance to. The airplane was a winner right out of the box; a record-setter and fleet defense aircraft par excellence, but so much more as well. The Phantom was used as, and excelled at being; an interceptor, a fighter, a fighter-bomber, a photo-recon ship, a straight-up bomber, a trainer, a chase plane, research aircraft, and more. It was designed for the Navy but adopted by the Marine Corps and Air Force as well as the air arms of numerous countries allied with the United States. It was Everyman's military aircraft, a journeyman warrior that was at least good enough in many of the roles in which it was ultimately employed and absolutely outstanding in several of them.
The photos you're about to view were taken in South Texas twenty-five or so years ago and give us a view of the F-4 as employed by the USAF and ANG during that time period. Let us begin:
And that's it for today's installment, but there are more F-4s to come, so stay tuned!
Long Ago and Not So Far Away
The late 1960s saw us more-or-less attending school, working in a hobby shop, and presiding over an organisation known at the time as The San Antonio Modeler's Society, or SAMS for short, which was the direct antecedent (another Big Word---it means predecessor, which means the one that came before, if you aren't particularly well-read) of today's Alamo Squadron. This photo comes to us from that far-away time.
Some More of Those Other Guys
As modelers, very few of us ever attempt to replicate the maintenance side of things, even though it's quite the rage to build models with every conceivable panel (except, of course the logical ones) opened for maintenance, or maybe just for looking at in the truest spirit of "look at what I can do to a plastic model". In our view it's good to do that sometimes, but not for the reasons you might think. Here's why:
We all pay homage to the pilots and aircrew who flew the airplanes we so fondly model, but it's easy to forget there were a lot of other guys out there making it possible to even get their airplanes in the air, much less score aerial victories or conduct a successful bombing run in them. The ground echelons were important to the war effort too, as were the cooks and the truck drivers. Let's raise a glass to them all!
Thanks once again to the kindness of Bobby Rocker for these images of a time long passed.
The Only One
The Bell P-39 Airacobra helped to hold the line in the Pacific after the American debacles at Pearl Harbor in in the Philippines, was the American-flown fighter in New Guinea for several months during 1942, and was a significant type in the struggle for Guadalcanal as well. It was in in combat day after day, week after week, and only one American fighter pilot made ace in it, ever. Only one. Here's a photo of the airplane in which he accomplished this remarkable achievement.
Mark Nankivil comes up with so much beautiful aviation photography that it's amazing. Here's an image that he sent to us several months ago, courtesy of the NASA, that proves the point:
The Relief Tube
In our last issue we ran several photographs that we credited to Bobby Rocker when, in fact, they were taken by an individual that we failed to credit properly---they came from the camera of Jack Wheeler. We'll be going back into the captions shortly to correct them, but in the meantime many thanks to Gerry Kersey of 3rd Attack .Org for the correction (and for providing the photography to us in the first place)!
And thanks to all of you for looking in on us today. We'd like to encourage you to send any historic aviation photography (or anecdotal material) you might have on hand and like to share to us at firstname.lastname@example.org . We promise we'll make good use of it, and provide full (and hopefully accurate!) credit for your contributions. In the meantime, be good to your neighbor. We'll meet again soon!